Last year I joined a writer’s group and it’s virtually the only one in my area. I had a lot of doubts about it because the members of the group are all white, all older than me, and appear to be in comfortable financial situations. I am the only Black person and the only Person of Color in the group, seemingly the only working class/poor person as well. I am also the only high fantasy, romance, and poetry writer, too.
At my very first meeting, casually racist and classist remarks (one of which was about Africa and ebola) were made by the other members. At another meeting I attended, the co-facilitator, one of two white guys, made a joke about not knowing what “a Black slave sounds like” after I voiced some concerns about my lack of desire to read one of the other white members’ work because it was from a book she had written which takes place during the expansion of white colonizers into the West in America; it includes both enslaved Black people with stereotyped names and “American Indians” championed by white saviors. That’s a whole other story in itself though.
Not wanting to give up too quickly out of my desire to be with other writers, I continued to attend meetings. One of the pros of the situation is that despite the group’s lack of racial and ethnic diversity, they tend to give fair feedback and are good writers themselves. I’m not the type of critic who gives a lot of technical feedback, instead I focus on how the writer’s work makes me feel and whether or not it gets me thinking–I offer that as feedback. I wasn’t sure that’s this is very helpful to the others since so many writers view the art of writing as a technical skill and process as if it has a precise formula. I view myself as an artist, not a technical writer or a businessperson trying to sell whatever I have as my main objective. I view my writing as a calling and an art.
I have no desire to continue to deal with their casual bigotry and ignorance, my stress level is high enough and I promised myself I wouldn’t force myself to educate and “mammy” people who don’t want to learn. However, I also don’t want to ride alone, or rather write alone. I don’t believe writing has to be a completely lonely process, as many have asserted that it is, that’s why I joined this group in the first place. I want to be around other writers.
Weighed down by heavy doubts about the group, stress, an unusual bout of illness this year, and helping with the birth of my nephew, I haven’t been back to meetings since late last year. They practice dropping people from the mailing list instead of asking them if they’re actually through with it and also changed the meeting location. I’m not sure if it’s a good idea for me to go back but I don’t want to leave without some closure. It may better idea for me to continue writing alone.